The fish-sprites chose that moment to arrive, which at least changed the mood if not improved it. One was pushing a large tray of food in front of it, the whole thing floating in mid-air. Another had a tray with piles of clothing; a third and fourth were managing a writing desk that was thick with carvings.
“Oh, oh wow. Thank you, all of you. Thank you.” Malina patted the air near all of the sprites. “Thank you,” she repeated. “This is quite a bit. Thank you.” She stretched and made her way to the little table, where the sprites had set everything. “You are very good – very good sprites?” she offered. “Very good spirits,” she added. “Very good at serving me,” she tried.
How did you even talk to sprites?
They chittered at her, a trilling sound that went up and down and up and down again like it was running up the stairs.
“You did a good job,” she added one more time.
“They like the feeling of you being pleased with what they did.” The cat stretched and hopped down from the bed, then up onto the table. “Oh, and they brought me fish. I like fish.” It dragged one small fish off of the food tray with a paw and began eating it delicately.
“Well, then, I suppose I have given them as they want. The writing table – oh, that was nice, but it seems to have been a lot of work for them.”
“They feel accomplished. Eat up, Princess. You wanted paper for a reason.”
“I wanted to write down all of the banners. And what you told me about them. And I wanted to write down all the questions. There are so many of them.”
“Humans,” the cat complained, “and writing things down. Better to forget them if they go out of your mind, or remember them on your own and not have to bother with all the writing and such. Better to let them go.”
“No.” Malina glared at the cat. “You say that because you change the subject when I ask you questions. But if I don’t write them down, I won’t know-“
“You’ll know plenty!” The cat bit into the fish viciously and then swallowed it all in one go. “You’ll know plenty! Haven’t the dreams told you that? Haven’t the visions? Haven’t I told you plenty?”
“No! All I get are clues and puzzle pieces and nothing to put them together! I need to understand! I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing here!”
“Need, need, need,” the cat complained. “You need to be here, Princess, because you’re here. You need to be here because this place has called you. YOu need to be here because you found it. And all of those things happened because something else happened, and that happened for one of two reasons, and even I don’t know which of those two it was!”
“Okay, so.” She stabbed a piece of breakfast pastry with a fork, feeling much like the cat must have when swallowing down the fish. “Okay. The first question is then, who, what, how. This place called me. This place is enchanted?”
“This place is something beyond enchantment and something before it. It’s,” the cat made a few noises which were almost entirely cat noises, not speaking. Then it sighed. “Okay, the castle. Your ancestor, Dominika, she and the ones who came before her, they found this place. It’s the place of magic. Mm, no. A place of magic, but it is a very strong place of magic. They found it, and they built the heart of this place to channel that magic. That was the start. The Treaties, and then the Final Treaty, those were the end, the piece which sealed it. That created the Border. It created the Peace, or rather it created the Cessation. Peace came because of the Cessation, and the Cessation came because the border was hidden, or rather, because the banners were hidden. And then Dominika, she in turn became part of the enchantment and she – and her castle – and the border – became part of the legend.”
“You can’t tell anything straight, can you?” She wanted to be frustrated. Instead she found she was laughing. She buttered her breakfast pastry and nibbled at it for a moment. “This place is the anchor of a large enchantment and is part of it at the same time. And it has something – a lot – to do with the border banners.”
“Yes.” The cat lapped at some cream. “So far, well, so good.”
She pulled a piece of paper from the writing desk and a pen, and she started writing that down. Next to it, she drew the banner charges she could remember.
“That’s like saying ‘you’re doing great so far’ when you’ve taken two steps in a race!”
“Ah, but Princess, you have taken so many more than two steps.” The cat washed a little cream off his face. “Eat more. You’re going to need it.”Want more?